Top-seeded Episcopal High School played stellar defense for 80 minutes while taking a 1-0 victory over feisty Dunham on Tuesday in a Division IV boys soccer regional playoff game at EHS.
Episcopal’s Jett Turnley kicked a perfect ball on a 30-yard free kick that Tanner Morales headed into the goal in the 50th minute for the lone score.
Both goal keepers played well. Dunham’s Clayton Fair had eight saves and Episcopal’s Josh Wilson had five . Episcopal led 15-9 on shots on goal. Fair had a foot save on a close shot by Knights sophomore Chidi Mbagwu in the 77th minute.
Episcopal (15-3-3) will host a quarterfinal game against Wednesday’s Country Day at No. 8 Pope John Paul II winner. The third-seeded Episcopal girls also advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-0 victory over Menard of Alexandria.
No. 17 Dunham, which defeated No. 16 Lafayette Christian 3-0 on the road in the first round, finishes 10-12-0. The Tigers got solid games from Caden and Connor Eagleton. Caden Eagleton handled the penalty kicks and displayed a powerful left foot on his five PKs.
“We executed the game plan very well and disrupted their style of play,” Dunham coach Paul Fletcher said. “We just couldn’t quite get a clear enough look on offense. Episcopal is No. 1 in the state for a reason. We needed a perfect night and we were close, but didn’t quite have it.”
Episcopal’s back line of Tochi Mbagwu, Cade Caron, Garett Reimann and Brady Ayres were solid all night. Reimann cleared Dunham’s final attack in the last minute with a header.
Fletcher adjusted his back line by moving Caden Eagleton, Hayden Harman and Brennan Phillips from the attack to the back. They were joined by center back Connor Eagleton.
“We were trying to create favorable matchups,” Fletcher said. “There was some chess going on with the lineups.”
Episcopal assistant coach Kevin Hoeprich said Turnley nailed the free kick on the scoring play.
“Our emphasis was on getting the ball into wide spaces and he smashed a perfect kick that curled,” Hoeprich said. “Anyone of the three guys in the area could have scored. Tanner Morales got to it and headed it into the right corner.
“Paul Fletcher came in with a great plan for Dunham. His boys stuck to the plans and it made it difficult for us. Dunham’s keeper kept them in the game.
“We knocked the ball around a bit better offensively in the second half. We had a lot of chances tonight in the attacking third.”
Episcopal’s Joe Acierno had a solid shot attempt in the 67th minute that sailed wide. Dunham’s Gabriel Gallegos tried an 18-yard shot in the 74th minute that was high.
Episcopal’s best chance to score in the first half came in the 34th minute on an attempt by Trevor Heath.
EPISCOPAL 6, MENARD 0: Freshman Avery Tauzin and sophomore Soledad Robins scored two goals for No. 3 Episcopal (15-3-3). The Knights also got a first-half goal from junior Allie Weinstein and a final goal from seventh-grader Faith Johnston.
Episcopal led 2-0 at halftime and scored three goals in a six-minute span from the 53rd minute to the 59th minute to take a 5-0 lead. Robins had two goals in the latter burst. Robins ran onto assists from Emma Kate Wright and Tauzin. Tauzin scored unassisted from 12 yards out for the fifth goal. Johnston scored in the 70th minute and shook two defenders to break free for a 15 yard goal.
Episcopal had 18 shots on goal with Menard keeper Emalea Futrell making 12 saves. In contrast, Menard had just three shots on goal and EHS junior keeper Grace Moraes had one save.
“Our back line played great and nothing gets thru them,” EHS coach Tucker Reynolds said. “The back line works well together and is very disciplined in their positioning. We also gave up no corner kicks.”
Reynolds said his team made three or more passes 16 times in the first half, and nine times in the second half. “One of our objectives is to make the ball do the work,” he said. “We passed the ball well tonight and I’m happy.”
Episcopal won just four games in 2018 and didn’t make the playoffs, so drawing a bye and advancing to the quarterfinals is a big step for his program, Reynolds said.
Menard coach David Elliott said his team struggled against EHS but had a nice season (12-12-1). “We struggled to guard No. 11 (Johnston), 26 (Robins) and 19 (Tauzin),” Elliott said. “They made their runs count. Episcopal will be a tough team to beat in the quarterfinals.”
Episcopal entertains the winner of Wednesday’s game between St. Charles Catholic at Catholic New Iberia. The quarterfinal game must be played by next Monday.